It was reported that Apple has blocked the recently released Java 7 Update 11 through their OS X’s XProtect anti-malware feature.
Prior to this, Oracle issued their latest Java update earlier this month to address a serious zero-day security flaw. The said threat was serious, that the US Department of Homeland Security recommended that all users of Java 7 must uninstall the software until a patch is issued. As stated by the department’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team:
We are currently unaware of a practical solution to this problem. This vulnerability is being attacked in the wild, and is reported to be incorporated into exploit kits. Exploit code for this vulnerability is also available.
Removing Java from the OS X Platform
Apple, on the other hand, took action by quietly disabling the plug-in through their OS X anti-malware system. Because Oracle is yet to issue a newer version of Java that will address the said issues, Mac users were prevented from running the software on their system. There were also claims that the Cupertino-based has company updated their OS X protect list quietly this week to block Java 7 Update 11.
For the past years, Apple has been gradually removing Java from OS X. In fact, they’ve dropped the Java runtime from OS X 10.7 Lion’s default installation when it was released in 2010. They also stopped building their own in-house Java updates and turned over the responsibility to Oracle.
It should be noted that Java vulnerabilities have been a common exploit used by hackers to take advantage of the OS X platform. The most famous among them is the “Flashback” Trojan, which spread in 2012 and is said to have infected as many as 600,000 Macs worldwide.
Apple addressed this issue by releasing a removal tool that is specifically designed for the malware. It also disabled the Java runtime in its Safari web browser version 5.1.7 and later. From the malware removal tool’s release notes:
About Flashback malware removal tool
The Flashback malware removal tool that will remove the most common variants of the Flashback malware.
If the Flashback malware is found, a dialog will be presented notifying the user that malware was removed.
In some cases, the Flashback malware removal tool may need to restart your computer in order to completely remove the Flashback malware.
This update is recommended for all OS X Lion users without Java installed.